Va-LEND Cohorts Complete New Pediatric PT Residency

June 2021

Children's Assistive Technology Services CATs [View Image]May 2021 marks the first-year anniversary of the accreditation of the Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. The program officially started in July of 2019 with its Director Terry Solano, PT, DPT. Solano is also a Va-LEND Faculty member and former Va-LEND Trainee. Jennifer Brashears, PT, DPT was one of two Va-LEND Trainees who were accepted into the program for the 2020-2021 academic year. "Residency programs are a relatively new idea in physical therapy, and even more so in pediatrics, so the process is competitive. Not all programs allow two residents, so this was unique and quite beneficial," said Brashears. Read more about the Pediatric PT Residency. 


Two LENDS Collaborate to Help Trainees

March 2021

Headshot of Faculty Member [View Image]Striving to train the next generation of child and maternal healthcare leaders is more than a slogan for Va-LEND (Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities). It is an ideal, which includes innovative ways to make training more effective. One such example is the collaboration between another LEND program. "The idea of the Pittsburgh LEND and Va-LEND originated from a regional LEND directors meeting at AUCD (Association of University Centers on Disabilities). We discussed ways we could share expertise among LENDS and offer trainees opportunities to connect with other trainees and faculty from different LENDs," said Jackie Robinson Brock, Assistant Director of Administration, for Va-LEND and one of the organizers. Miya R. Asato MD, who is the Director of the Pittsburgh LEND, added, "Collaboration is about sharing components of one another's programs and building on its strengths. We both have strong family presence in our programs so focusing on this theme around inclusion and working with families whose lives have been impacted by opioids were ways we were able to incorporate the family focus in LEND." Read more about this unique collaboration.


Medicaid Waiver Expert Joins Va-LEND Faculty

December 2020

Headshot of Deanna Parker [View Image]Va-LEND continues to add to our skilled team of faculty. Deanna Parker, MPA, has worked in the field of public policy for over 25 years and joins the LEND faculty in the discipline of Public Health. Ms. Parker is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. She helps develop, advance, and monitor regulatory and policy issues for Virginia's Developmental Disability (DD) Medicaid Waiver programs. Ms. Parker's history with Va-LEND; however, began with participation in the Family Mentorship Experience (FME), working with LEND trainees from the family perspective. She served as a family mentor for two years, then became a LEND trainee herself, graduating from the program in 2019. "I am the parent of a young adult with a developmental disability, so I have significant lived experience with the DD population as a parent and advocate. As a state policy maker, I do not work directly with individuals in the population I serve; however, the decisions I make in my job could have a long-term impact on individuals with disabilities in the Commonwealth, in terms of an improved quality of life and the benefit received from the Medicaid Waiver program and its services," she explained. Learn more about Medcaid Waivers...

Former Trainee- Making A Difference in the Latinx Community

November 2020

Headshot of Former Trainee [View Image]

 Recent Va-LEND graduate Fiorella Carrillo-Kimbrough volunteers with Caminos, a Richmond-based support group that works with Spanish-speaking families with children who have autism or other neurodevelopmental disabilities. The group incorporates the use of cultural brokers and provides culturally appropriate education and support. Carrillo-Kimbrough who both has a Masters' in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University and speaks Spanish helps to ease the language and cultural barriers that often affects those who do not use English as their primary language. Carrillo-Kimbrough noted the importance of being able to guide, support and educate families. This allows the families to increase their parental skills, their knowledge of complex systems to support their children and gives them a sense of empowerment and feeling of belonging, she said. "I learned about Caminos through an educational webinar that was offered through the Va-LEND program. Learn more about how Fiorella is making a difference,


Va-LEND Faculty Shares Impact of ADA

August 2020

Va-LEND Faculty Member headshot Jack Brandt, MS MS [View Image]

This July marked the 30th year of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), put into place to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. Jack Brandt, the Disability Advocacy (DA) track coordinator for the Virginia LEND (Va-LEND) program, mentors trainees in understanding the legislative process and how policies such as ADA impact people with disabilities and their families. He shares, "I have been impacted by the physical accessibility that the ADA provides for. I also utilize a reasonable accommodation to do my work. I have been fortunate to dedicate my career to the goals of the ADA and the DD Act." Learn more about ADA's impact...


Va-LEND Welcomes New Faculty With Focus on Cultural Agility

July 2020

Va-LEND Faculty Member headshot Dana Yarbrough, MA, MS [View Image]For Dana Yarbrough, this summer marks 21 years at the Partnership with People with Disabilities as a project director, Director of Center for Family Involvement (CFI), and Assistant Director of the UCEDD. But it also marks a new adventure: bringing her vision and perspective to Va-LEND.

Her expertise is particularly relevant to shine new light on cultural diversity at Va-LEND. Yarbrough explains, "I've had the opportunity to build a team of cultural brokers at the UCEDD. This includes immigrants, refugees, and people of color who are parents of children with disabilities, who help our organization collaborate in ways that are culturally agile, sensitive and responsive." Yet, Yarborough admits after 11 years with UCEDD that cultural diversity is still in beginning stages of authentically talking the talk and walking the walk as a culturally competent organization. "We recognize the trauma experienced through the intersectionality of cultural identities (i.e., disability, race/ethnicity, gender preference). We understand the emotional responses to health inequities, blatant discrimination, senseless killings, and racial profiling, to name a few. Neutrality is not okay as individuals or as UCEDDs and LEND programs." Learn more about our newest Faculty member...


Welcome Back, Va-LEND OT Alumni - As Faculty

April 2020

Lauren Andelin 4 Va-LEND Faculty [View Image]Welcome back to Lauren Andelin, who earned her doctoral degree in Occupational Therapy. Dr. Andelin graduated in 2013 from Va-LEND and joined our faculty in February 2020. In addition to her faculty position at Va-LEND, Dr. Andelin is a clinician at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she also works on the Assistive Technology team. Before ever joining Va-LEND, Dr. Andelin, saw a unique opportunity in the program: "I had recently joined the Assistive Technology team and had a lot of ideas that I was excited to implement at my organization. LEND was a great way for me to help make my ideas a reality....the program gave me tools to interact with other professionals for better care of the whole child, an understanding of different perspectives, and the confidence to complete a project that I may not otherwise have done." Learn more about trainee returning as faculty...


Va-LEND Thrives Amid COVID-19

June 2020

Dr. Jennifer Accardo and former Va-LEND Trainee receives certificate [View Image]

Presentation and discussion of research posters and leadership presentations herald the end of the Va-LEND program for the academic year at Virginia Commonwealth University. They are typically lively events marked by discussion, acknowledgement of trainee achievements, and fellowship. This year was very different due to the commonwealth's response to COVID-19 and need to socially distance. Yet the transition to online formats for both events didn't put a damper on the energy level for trainees or other attendees.  Learn how Va-LEND is thriving amid COVID-19...




COVID-19 Shifts Family Mentoring Experience

May 2020

Va-LEND Trainee with Family Mentoring Experience Family at picnic [View Image]

Va-LEND trainees have always appreciated close interaction with their mentoring families through the Family Mentorship Experience (FME) program, a highlight of their time in Va-LEND. However, starting in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in person visits were no longer feasible due to social distancing. Kate Flinn, FME Coordinator, reflects that "It's really challenging people to think out of the box about virtual connections and how to make them work. It's also challenging people to be creative in how they keep their kids engaged, while so many are now home with them 24-7."  Learn how COVID-19 shifts mentoring family mentoring experience...


Family is at the Heart of Va-LEND

March 2020

FME Family Bethany Sizemore, husband and son in front of fireplace [View Image]For over 20 years Family Mentorship Experience (FME) has been an integral part of Va-LEND. The goal of FME is for the mentoring families to teach the students about their life as a parent of a child with special healthcare needs. Trainees schedule at least five face-to- face visits during the academic year with their family and maintain an activity log. Mentoring families often participate over a period of years, and can choose to be part of Va-LEND for many reasons. "I chose to be part of this discipline at Va-LEND to raise awareness and advocate for people with disabilities. Not everyone is aware of the daily challenges. Parenting is hard enough, however having a child with a disability definitely amplifies that.  Learn how family is at heart of Va-LEND..


Va-LEND Trainee Receives Champions of Accessibility Award

February 2020

Va-LEND Trainee Lynne Fetter [View Image]Va-LEND Trainee, Lynne Fetter received the Champions of Accessibility Award from the Transforming Accessibility Initiative (TAI) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Fetter was one of thirteen honored at TAI's annual fall conference. This award aimed to honor individuals, departments, groups, or websites committed to advocating for accessibility in their community. Recipients show passion and drive for promoting access and are making a large impact on the VCU Community, according to TAI. Fetter won under the graduate category, as her Social Work internship at the Center on Transition Innovations (CTI) at VCU focused on supporting youths with disability transition from school to the workplace. The CTI is Virginia's center on best practices for helping youth with disabilities, transition into the workplace. Fetter's work bridged ACE-IT in college participants to the community as she helped facilitate the internship course for this program.  Learn more about trainee receiving Champions of Accessibility Award...



Va-LEND Integral Component of New Physical Therapy Residency Program

December 2019

Va-LEND Faculty Member headshot Terry Solano, PT, DPT [View Image]Va LEND is now partnering with the new Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU joins 26 other pediatric physical therapy residency programs nationwide. The current cohort of LEND trainees includes two pediatric PTs enrolled in the new yearlong residency. Dr. Terry Solano, the director of the residency program and a former LEND trainee, sees Va-LEND participation as an ideal fit for the pediatric PT residents.The LEND curriculum aligns closely with core components required for their education, i.e., leadership, professional development and research. "As trainees in the LEND program, Pediatric Physical Therapy Residents are provided the unique opportunity to not only learn from experts in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities, but also develop leadership skills collaboratively with fellow trainees representing people with disabilities and other disciplines. This rich learning environment is further enhanced through exposure to the day to day experiences of a family of a child with a disability through the family mentorship experience," Solano explained.  Learn more how new physical residency program is integral part of Va-LEND......

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